By • Apr 1st, 2003 •

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It’s been a strange late Winter in the Big Apple. Here it is, April, and we’ve still been battling snow, while in Iraq, Doctor Gupta was treating American soldiers suffering from dehydration in 100 degree heat. What’s up with that?

Filmmaker Gerald Barkley tells me his new indie, BLOODY STREETZ, a black ghetto drama, is making the rounds of the U.S. soldiers in Iraq, so I guess they’ve got access to DVD players.

I did want to say something cogent about the war, but anything I’d say would make me feel like an armchair general. So I did the next best thing…I called Simone Simon in Paris and asked her what she thought of Chirac’s antics? After all, she knows the guy; maybe at 92 she’d be able to shed some light on his shenanigans. Simone was her usual witty self. She claimed she hadn’t seen him since a ceremony in ’72, and remembered him as a good speaker when he presented her and Terence Stamp with awards. “He kissed me on the cheek, then he kissed me again on the neck. But he only shook hands with Terence Stamp!”

We’re mourning some big ones these past few months:

Stan Brakhage, aged 70, who I was horrified to find looking for a grip job on a film I co-produced called THE COMEBACK TRAIL in 1971. I asked him why he was doing it: “Your films are better than this one?!”, I admonished him, even though the film was from my original idea, of which I was proud. He replied that experimental films just didn’t pay the bills.

Howard Fast, 88, who I plied with chocolates several years ago to soften him up for an interview about SPARTACUS which was published in The Perfect Vision magazine, of which I was then Managing Editor. He was a cantankerous dude, but shed lots of light on a troubled production which turned out better than its poisoned trajectory deserved.

Michael Jeter, 50, who I generally couldn’t stand with his tics and annoying voice. He reminded me of a genetically mutated sibling of Wally Cox. However, after word of his passing, I pulled WATERWORLD off the shelf and gave it another look. Really fun film. And Jeter managed not to ruin it.

Leslie Cheung. How I loved THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR. Apparently Cheung, 46, jumped off a building, this time without the use of wires.

Philip Yordan, aged 88. Man, I thought he’d died long ago, else I would’ve tried to meet the guy. Certainly a long, respected career, but what interested me most were his high-rolling activities as writer/producer of the Dupont-funded Samuel Bronston epics in Spain.

Jean Paul Getty II, in England (70), of a persistent chest infection. It worries me that billionaires like Getty can’t be restored to tip top shape at such a relatively young age. He was a supporter of Kenneth Anger’s, and generally enjoyed giving away his cash, which what it amounted to in Anger’s situation.

Michael and Marion at “The Alamo”

Michael Wayne (68). It appears the Duke’s genetic components may be lacking a vital ‘duration’ gene. The son left us rather early, and his dad only made it to 72. On the other hand I’m told they were both heavy into alcohol and probably lived full lives the way they wanted to. The son also was battling Lupus, and Wayne Sr., as you all know, was involved in THE CONQUERER cancer fiasco. So maybe other factors won out over genetic predisposition. My only contact with Michael Wayne was actually a non-contact. While shepherding The Perfect Vision magazine, I wrote a piece about THE ALAMO, and must have called his office fifty times (no exaggeration), day after day, once a day, trying to interview him about the actual production costs, etc., of the epic indie. Only once did he return my calls, when I was out of the office, and after that he went back into hiding and I never did make a connection. He was diligent in his efforts, both legal and promotionally, to perpetuate his father’s legacy.

And on other fronts, some stellar DVDs have hit the market place. Fox is going bananas with their oldies library, including three with Bernard Herrmann scores, THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, plus Annaud’s QUEST FOR FIRE, Murnau’s quintessential silent film, SUNRISE…I could go on and on. This is both great and bad. Not just good and bad, the disparity is far wider than that. Because as the majors begin to flood the stores with these gems of yesteryear – which, let’s face it, is the greatest thing that could happen, then the indie DVDs are being forced off the shelves, which is a perilous development. I’m an indie filmmaker, and I feel like a turncoat, yet I must have these golden oldies, and can’t wait for Dassin’s NIGHT AND THE CITY, NIGHTMARE ALLEY, SON OF FURY, THE RAINS CAME… On the other hand I’ve got THE SWEET LIFE about to be released. What a dilemma!

And while I’m on the topic of indies, a bright note. FIR contributor Glenn Andreiev’s latest digital video feature, EVERY MOVE YOU MAKE, is making quite a pre-release splash. Why? Because he cast subway shooter Bernard Goetz in a pivotal role, one in which Goetz actually touches, fictionally, on his own real past. This casting coup has apparently landed the film coverage in rags as polar as The National Enquirer and Premiere Magazine. Way to go, Glenn! After five ultra-low budget features, it is clear that nothing will stop the guy except the Grim Reaper, which Glenn will probably stave off by offering it a part in his next opus.

Speak to you again in a month or so.

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